The beauty and personal care market in the Philippines is expected to surge to $4.7 billion by 2026 as a wave of new consumers drive demand and the growth of online shopping channels helps spread awareness and product availability to the entire country.
Hoping to cash in on this trend is Wildleaf, the fastest growing skincare brand in the Philippines. The company uses only USA-sourced ingredients including wildcrafted and organically grown medicinal plants, food-grade plant oils and waxes, pure essential oils and other special ingredients to deliver on its promise of ethically sourced, toxic-free products.
Wildleaf started in Berkeley, California in 2016 by husband and wife duo Sherry and Cris. Sherry is a certified aesthetician and has experience working as a medical representative in the dermatological sector. She says her background has been vital in understanding the right ingredients that go into skincare products.
“Both my husband and I are into clean living, which is a lifestyle we can follow easily in California with so many options available. Our friends and relatives in the Philippines would ask us for skincare suggestions, and we discovered that there weren't many clean skincare brands available back home. So the idea to launch Wildleaf was born when we saw the gap in the Philippine market and realized the potential,” says Sherry.
Product development and manufacturing for Wildleaf started in California. Cris’ background as an entrepreneur in the supplements industry helped the fledgling company, but the duo were careful to partner with the right manufacturers and source only the best ingredients for their products.
“We were fortunate to be in the San Francisco Bay Area as there are a lot of skincare brands here. That allowed us to do our research and choose what ingredients would work well. It enabled us to build a good product for the Philippines, at the right price point, and the correct formula,” explains Sherry.
Wildleaf officially started operations in 2017, shipping products to the Philippines from the U.S. But as their business scaled, Sherry and Christian took the bold decision to move the company entirely to Asia.
How difficult was it for them to establish a new, unproven brand?
Trust was an important factor, notes Sherry. She says her customers loved the products which helped convert them into loyal fans, driving word of mouth sales and brand recognition. The team made a conscious decision to promote authenticity, declining from engaging influencers or celebrities to do paid reviews.
“That was refreshing for the Philippines market, because most skincare brands here just have celebrities endorse their products. And I think that, along with people being more educated here in the Philippines about what kind of ingredients they're putting on their skin, the access to information including reviews is readily available now,” she adds.
“People don’t believe celebrity endorsements as much anymore. They like the fact that we use real customers for our reviews, with photos and testimonials. Our customers really appreciate it.”
Scaling With Shopify
Wildleaf initially built its tech stack on a free ecommerce theme, believing that it was the best solution. While the founders had heard of Shopify, they thought other platforms were superior.
“But after about a year and a half, our marketing team said we should look at Shopify. So I researched it and decided to make the move. So we switched over in February,” explains Cris.
“We immediately saw good results and were like "Wow, why didn't we do this sooner?" Everything is better on Shopify, in my opinion, as far the tools, the plugins, and the ease of use. Honestly there should be no debate, as Shopify is superior in all respects.”
The team’s must-have Shopify apps are Instagram and Facebook as well as social proof apps Loox and Smile.io. Shopify’s ease of use is something they regularly stress upon during our chat.
“Even with our team, our warehouse and office team, they're easily able to understand it. And the fact that the mobile app is also really easy to use and highly functional. If there are changes on the website you are in and out. Whenever we want to make even the slightest of changes, we can do that quite easily, even on our phones,” notes Sherry.
Slow internet speeds in the Philippines play a big role too. Shopify’s superior backend means Wildleaf is able to deliver a superior user experience, which it struggled with in its earlier platform.
“The checkout process is pretty seamless and quick, which is important because a second or two delay can be the difference between a sale and a non-sale. And so the fact that they can get from the shopping cart to check out really quickly is a big plus,” affirms Cris.
Plans for the Future
Wildleaf is on an impressive growth trajectory, having raked in over US$1 million in sales in 2019 and the team says they’re on track to break that in 2020. But they’re not planning on resting on their achievements.
Penetrating into new markets is high on the list of priorities, with Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore all on the list. Planned launch in these markets has been delayed due to the outbreak of the virus, but it’s still very much on the cards in the near future.
“We are looking to have a fulfillment hub somewhere on the mainland. So maybe Hong Kong or Malaysia and maybe one in Jakarta in Indonesia, but because of everything going on, we just decided to focus full-time on penetrating the Philippine market for now. There’s 100 million people here so there’s still a lot to do and we haven’t come close to saturating the local market yet,” explains Sherry.
Wildleaf has positioned itself in the upper mid tier category. While there are definitely cheaper products in the market, the high end brands are anywhere between two to four times more expensive.
“Our pricing is about right. The quality of the ingredients is quite high and all imported, so we have to charge a bit more than other products that are produced with locally sourced ingredients. Our customers say it's worth it in the end,” says Cris.
The best-selling product is the Vitamin C Serum, followed by the Brightening Duo, the Brightening Care Set, and finally the Anti-Aging Care Set.
As of right now, Wildleaf has 32 full-time employees with plans to add a few more to help with the creative side especially advertising.
Advice for others
It’s clear that the duo have managed to make a mark for themselves in a relatively short period of time. Their sales and abundance of customers are testament to that fact. So how would they guide other aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs, eager to start their own ventures?
“Your website is key,” note the duo. “There’s no better platform than Shopify to get started and we highly suggest that they use social media marketing.”
“Tie up social media with your website, get your Facebook Pixel installed, and track all the data. Who’s visiting your website, what are they purchasing? Start building your following, but take it slow because it takes time to build a brand. It took us about a year to get significant sales.” says Cris.
A common pitfall for new ecommerce entrepreneurs is the tendency to send free products to others to get them to review it and write about it. It’s better to focus on organic reviews with pictures and testimonials, they maintain.
“That’s what people look for. When they hear about your product, they go online, they research it, they figure out what other people are saying about it. And that's really important.”
It’s also possible that entrepreneurs might want to list their products on marketplaces for that initial visibility, such as Lazada and Shopee.
New product lines are something that Wildleaf’s fans can look forward to soon. The team is actively considering a children line as well as a bath and body line.
“We want to leverage the brand and keep pushing it,” explains Sherry.